But does Davey Brett hope to see a prawn again?
I know what you’re thinking: why have you gone to Jimmy’s Killer Prawns?
I’ll tell you why. Because for the last three months, walking past it daily on the way to work, I have become obsessed with it.
Every day it looks busy. Even busier after 8pm. Bentleys and exotic sports cars are often parked outside. On the website, a man - who I assume is Jimmy himself - a cross between Kevin Spacey and a bit part capo from The Sopranos, is seen cooking prawns in a frying pan, alone.
The marketing stresses the “addictive taste”.
The menu is massive which comes with a bittersweet sense of the ones that got away
The Jimmy's Killer Prawns (JKP) chain originated in South Africa in 1991 with a container freezer, a grill and a dream. Grilled prawns done right.
Soon it was being exported to UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Cyprus and the UK, where it has outposts in Leicester, Blackburn and on Liverpool Road in Manchester. The latter is where I drag two of my colleagues on a Monday evening.
JKP is a familiar chain setup, a long, floor-to-ceiling window stretches along the side of the restaurant like a fish tank. We sit in one of the wipe-down booths in the window, Super Mario-style pipe lighting hangs above our heads and lights up a wall nearby.
The music is loud. A cover of Kylie Minogue’s "Can’t Get You Out Of My Head" sounds like it’s voiced by someone from a witness protection segment on Crimewatch.
There are a few things to be aware of at JKP. Firstly, they don’t do tap water, so we have to buy a plastic bottle of Volvic. Secondly, they don’t sell alcohol which is a welcome change. Thirdly, the menu is massive which invites a bittersweet sense of the ones that got away.
Obviously, we get the prawns. A Prawn Fiesta (£73) includes 20 medium prawns, 10 queen prawns (or “queens” as they’re affectionately referred to across the menu), 6 king prawns, 5 Santorini queens and 5 Mozambique queens served with rice, fries and a trio of curdled looking sauces.
I wanted to love JKP. I wanted it to be like entering a clandestine society of people that knew something everyone else didn’t. A prawny freemasons. That said, I’m required to tell the truth and can confirm the wheels began to fall off as soon as the mocktails arrived.
Imagine you have a margarita glass. You wet the rim of the margarita glass and then you dunk it in so much Saxo salt it forms an impenetrable, crusty forcefield around the entire glass. You then fill the glass with watery orange juice and that’s a Virgin Margarita (£3.95) at JKP. A glass of orange juice under salty siege.
Things go from bad to worse. Two pieces of garlic bread (£5.95) come out, browned on top but undercooked below which leaves one rubbery slab with a phlegmy molten centre and another that's only slightly better.
The house salad of rocket and onion with walnuts and sunflower seeds (£6.55) is limp, dehydrated and accompanied by a ramekin of vinegar. Even the strawberries and pomegranate seeds, which suggested a hint of flair, are tasteless. The pomegranate especially is almost void of colour.
Spicy chicken livers (£6.40) are better, but only to the standard of an average microwave ready meal. The “spicy African chilli sauce” they sit in is as nondescript as its title, bringing to mind those creamy orange pasta sauces you get on a 3 for 2 at the supermarket. Thankfully the accompanying bread is toasted.
The prawns arrive with deserved fanfare. A long platter of prawns of varying sizes with a guard’s honour of queens and sides. You have to question the sustainability of such a feast but you can’t be precious when wearing a pair of disposable plastic gloves and sucking the brains out of small sea creatures.
Big prawns are always a treat. I wouldn’t describe Jimmy’s ones as addictive but there’s something indulgent about a mound of them and I can’t think of anywhere nearby that does as many in one go. Their taste, forgettable, doesn’t reflect the vibrancy of their colour but they are well cooked, easy to shell and enjoyable.
Santorini queens with their garlic and feta topping, are richer and more pleasant than the sweet, coconut milk sauce of their Mozambique sisters but neither really warrant the dressing up. The prawns are better in their most authentic form.
Frozen chips sprinkled with neon-red seasoning and equally neon-yellow microwaved rice confirm that the sides don’t work, they just make it worse.
Jimmy's "dynamite" prawn burger (£7.95) really kills the vibe. The prawn equivalent of a Rustlers, it's a dry mound of battered prawns and papery lettuce with a fridge-cold Kraft cheese slice on top. The signature dynamite sauce fails to ignite our tastebuds. The whole thing is beige.
It’s at this point that prawn overload creeps in. We wave the lemon-scented wet wipes of surrender over our hands and faces and box up the leftover prawns to go.
I wanted to love Jimmy’s Killer Prawns but it will always be a menu murder mystery that I’m unable to solve. An addictive taste I’m more than willing to go cold turkey on. If you must go, stick to the prawns.
Jimmy's Killer Prawns, 13-25 Liverpool Rd, Manchester M3 4NW
Follow Davey Brett on Twitter @dbretteats
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Garlic cheese bread 3, chicken livers 4, salad 3, prawn burger 1, prawn fiesta 6
Friendly, doting, deserve massive credit for balancing those hefty platters
Couldn't get the music out of our heads